At long last, the Arizona Fall League is here. Well, almost. The league doesn’t begin until Sept. 18, but its preliminary rosters were released today. As usual, Baseball America is here to give you a complete run down of the top prospects, the intriguing risers and any other players to keep an eye out for during the six-week AFL season. The league hosts some of the game’s top talent and offers a preview of next season’s stars.
Last year’s version featured slugging Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who has broken the National League rookie record for most home runs in a season, as well as Blue Jays phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Brewers standout Keston Hiura, White Sox wunderkind Luis Robert and Toronto fireballer Nate Pearson. Past AFL stars have also included Ronald Acuña Jr., Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge, Kris Bryant, Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.
The league will look a little different this year, with two of its stalwart parks—Scottsdale Stadium and Surprise Stadium—out of commission for the fall, meaning Salt River will share its home park with Scottsdale and Surprise will double-up in Peoria. The league’s Opening Day is much earlier this year, too, in an effort to make the transition from the regular season to the Arizona Fall League easier, especially for pitchers, who in previous years had to deal with a few weeks of layoff between games.
This preview focuses on the Glendale Desert Dogs, who play their home games at Camelback Ranch and will feature prospects from the White Sox, Dodgers, Reds, Brewers and Cardinals.
Top Prospects: The Desert Dogs are headlined by Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson and Reds infielder Jonathan India, who check in at No. 27 and No. 52 on the most recent iteration of BA’s Top 100 Prospects list. Carlson has been pushed aggressively by the Cardinals and has responded to every challenge. He began the season as the fourth-youngest player (and second youngest position player) in the Texas League, and slammed a league-best 21 home runs before being promoted to Triple-A Memphis.
India, the fifth overall pick in the 2018 draft, held his own in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League for the season’s first half before being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga. He brings a balanced skill set on both sides of the ball and enough athleticism to be tested in the outfield, if necessary.
The Intriguing: Cardinals catcher Ivan Herrera’s success has been somewhat cloaked this year, but he’s quietly been one of the most productive catchers in the game. He began the year as the third-youngest player in the Midwest League—he won’t turn 20 until next June—but his 135 wRC+ was the second-highest among any of the league’s backstops. He’s continued to produce after a promotion to high Class A Palm Beach.
White Sox first baseman Gavin Sheets worked to incorporate his legs into his swing more often, and the results have been stark. In the second half at Double-A Birmingham, Sheets has hit. 303/.379/.511 with 13 doubles and eight home runs. This is an especially encouraging sign after he hit just six at high Class A Winston-Salem in his first full season as a pro.
Reds righthander Cory Thompson is a converted infielder who is in his third year as a pitcher and struck out 51 against 18 walks in 56.2 innings this season between high Class A Daytona and Double-A Chattanooga. Brewers backstop Payton Henry was a beast in spring training and showed off intriguing power at high Class A Carolina while splitting time behind the plate with Mario Feliciano. Henry has caught 38 percent of runners attempting to steal.
The Rehabbing: Cardinals third baseman Elehuris Montero missed two months with a broken left hamate bone and will try to make up the lost at-bats.
Dodgers infielder Omar Estevez missed a month and change with a pulled left hamstring. Dodgers righthander Gerardo Carrillo missed three weeks with lat and shoulder soreness and second baseman Devin Mann missed one month with a right knee contusion.
UPDATE — Sept. 6: The Cardinals removed Dylan Carlson from the roster and replaced him with Conner Capel, whom they acquired along with Jhon Torres from the Indians in exchange for outfielder Oscar Mercado. The Brewers removed Nathan Kirby, Tristen Lutz and Payton Henry from the roster and replaced them with Robbie Hitt and Jacob Gatewood.
Opening Night Update: The Cardinals have added righthander Seth Elledge, and the White Sox have cleared outfielder Micker Adolfo to participate.
|Bernardo Flores||LHP||White Sox|
|Tyler Johnson||RHP||White Sox|
|Bennett Sousa||LHP||White Sox|
|Vincent Arobio||RHP||White Sox|
|Brett de Geus||RHP||Dodgers|
|Gavin Sheets||1B||White Sox|
|Blake Rutherford||OF||White Sox|
|Micker Adolfo||OF||White Sox|
|Jim Henderson||Pitching Coach||Brewers|
|Cole Armstrong||Hitting Coach||White Sox|